Fridtjof Nansen


He was born and raised on the outskirts of Christiania, the modern Oslo. His childhood was not too difficult because his family was wealthy but he received a simple education and learned important values such as integrity, independence and courage.
Nansen in 1880 entered the University of Christiania in order to study zoology.
During the spring and summer of 1882, while still at university, took part in an expedition to Jan Mayen Islands on board the Viking, a sealer boat, a trip that had a great influence on his future career. This was his first experience of the Arctic, and was immediately captured by the solitude and silence, by the wilderness and its majestic beauty. However, for some time he turned its attention to the study up to graduate in 1888.
Already the year after his expedition to Jan Mayen, Nansen began to prepare plans for a journey across Greenland, at that time the interior was completely unexplored. His intention was to cross the ice cap from east to west, very curious choice start from the uninhabited east coast and march toward the inhabited west coast. In fact Nansen decided to cut any possible way back, this was characteristic of all his future expeditions. His plan was described as a madness from the experts. Nobody believed that some skiers without the help of dogs and sleds, could cross the inland ice. But he had already took his decision. Nansen and his companions were landed near the Sermilik Fjord and could begin the ascent of the ice cap only on August 15, when the brief Arctic summer was now at the end. In early October the party reached Godthaab, a small settlement on the west coast where they spent the winter. The expedition has made a decisive contribution to the knowledge of the Greenland.
But Nansen had already been thinking about a new expedition. Since 1884 he had read by the Jeanette that sank off the New Siberian Islands and the remains were recovered in southern Greenland. A fact that indicated the existence of an ocean current towards the west. Nansen got the idea of reaching on board a vessel the easternmost point possible off the coast of Siberia, than trap the boat in the ice and hope that the current move to the North Pole or at least at a point close to it. For the purpose it was built the Fram, the ship thanks to its special hull was able to resist a big ice pressure. The expedition began in the summer of 1893, and in September the vessel was trapped in the ice and began its drift that led it to the west but not enough to the north. Nansen, decided to leave the ship, together with Hjalmar Johansen, and try to reach the pole marching on the pack, using skis, dog sled and kayak. After an incredible journey they reached the latitude of 86 ° 14 ‘N, the northernmost ever reached, then they went  to Franz Joseph Land where wintered in 1895. In 1896 they continued their long journey south to meet with the British explorer Frederick Jackson at Cape Flora, which led them  safe to Norway. The scientific results achieved were of great importance.
In 1905 he participated in the movement that led to independence Norway from Sweden and was appointed Norwegian ambassador to Great Britain from 1906 to 1908. From 1910 to 1914 was engaged in various explorations in the North Atlantic, Arctic Ocean and Siberia. In 1918 he was director for the Assembly of the League of Nations. Nansen dealt for the return of prisoners of war in 1920 and from 1921 to 1923 was responsible for the Red Cross during the great famine in the Volga region and in Ukraine. For this work he received the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1922.

BIOGRAPHY curated by Piero Bosco